Vinyls Through The Cochlear

Vinyls Through The Cochlear

One Friday night, at my old house in Baltimore, my friend Chris brought in a stack of vinyls from his collection. We went to the other room and Chris placed one of his records on my roommate’s turntable. Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen started playing and my feelings for music have never been the same since then. The crisp sound of the piano and the Boss’ vocals in analog format allowed me to appreciate the music in a new way. While the digital streaming format is convenient, I am only hearing one layer of all the elements being composed into a song. I had listened to vinyls before receiving the Cochlear implant (CI) but the difference never stuck out to me. After the CI, I was not only able to distinguish the difference between vinyl and digital format but also my brain is able to process the pure analog sound that is carried out from a vinyl format.

The Record Rituals

A few months ago, I purchased my own turntable and began collecting vinyl of my own. I started with my dad’s old collection and bought more records over time. Let me tell you something, after only a few months, the vinyl addiction is real. I would search the internet to find and buy new albums of my favorite bands or even add them to my Amazon wish list. After experiencing a favorite album on vinyl, I would want to listen to that same album again from the beginning. Sometimes, I make my families and friends sit with me with these vinyls instead of watching TV or a movie. It began to become a whole ritual for me: pulling out the record, scanning it for dusts and scratches, gently putting it on the turntable and letting the needle thread through the grooves. We would pass around the album cover, compiled with photographs, lyrics and other materials about the artist. Before you know it, the side is over and it’d be time to get up and flip it over. The whole routine becomes an intentional way of appreciating music. The Cochlear helps me connect to the very melody that draws me into embracing the routine.

Cochlear Through The Vines

In a way, the Cochlear is similar to vinyl records where they are able to deliver multiple layers of sound to the ear. With the electrodes that make up the implant inside the cochlea, the CI allows me to absorb a wider spectrum of sound.
Continue reading “Vinyls Through The Cochlear”

Wearing The Cochlear Through A Time of Tragedy

On September 21st, 2017, I lost my father suddenly. My whole world collapsed, and I was lost at words for several weeks. The feelings I’ve felt in the past couple months have been so new and indescribable. All through these trying times,  I’ve not only have been blessed with the love and support of families and friends, but my Cochlear has also emerged unexpectedly as a pillar.

My Dad On The Day of Cochlear Surgery

On the day of the Cochlear implant surgery, back in February 2016, I’ll never forget my father and mother being there at 6 am in the UPenn hospital waiting room. He would slip all the cheesy dad puns about “hearing” how much of a big deal the surgery is and what a big day it’s going to be. He was there when I woke up from the surgery and asked the most ridiculous question on whether I could hear better already (I couldn’t yet, obviously). I’ll never forget when my Dad helped me walk to the car and I turned to him, looked him in the eye and told him how grateful I am to have him there to open a new chapter in my life. He squeezed my arm and held back some tears. One year later, I was visiting him in the Poconos, with a few friends, and he took a special toast one night at dinner for the one year anniversary of having my Cochlear implant. I don’t know where I would be today without my Dad. Growing up with all of the life struggles of being a hearing impaired kid in a hearing world, he taught me countless lessons of perseverance to become the man that I am today. Pictured below is my dad and I posing, moments before the Cochlear surgery commenced (Notice the awkward Dad pose). It’s precious memories like these that help me keep moving forward.

Cochlear

The Moment When The Cochlear Lifted Me Up

On the Friday night after my Dad passed away, my brother, his fiancé and I arrived at his house in the Poconos to be with his side of the family. We all gathered at the table with some wine and poured over some old photos and documents that my Dad has collected throughout his life. At one point, I couldn’t help myself but pull away from the group to walk around the house. I was half looking for him, half reflecting on the memories I’ve had with him in that house. I was hoping that those past couple days would be some sick joke and that he would pop out of somewhere and surprise me. I found myself walking around the outside deck and stopped at the American flag hanging about, lit up by a flood light. Then suddenly, this overwhelming sadness came over me, and I fell down to the nearest chair and sobbed. I couldn’t stop crying if I tried. After a while, I started to take note of my surroundings. It was still warm and humid outside, so there were still the usual summer insects out such as mosquitoes and fireflies. Thanks to minimal light pollution, there were many stars in the sky watching over me and the smell of pines coming from the trees all around the house. Then I started to realize what I’ve been listening to the whole time I was sitting: a countless number of crickets chirping not so softly into the night. Then, I noticed that I was only hearing them with my Cochlear. My hearing aid on my left side was not picking up any of the high pitched sounds the crickets were orchestrating. Right then and there, at that moment, I was finally able to get a hold of my emotions. My crying came to a stop, and I was able to take few deep breaths. I discerned that if these crickets are still going forward with life then so can I. The rest of the universe is still in motion even when my own world shattered into pieces. I felt my Dad’s presence on that deck, telling my heart to soldier on. It was thanks to the Cochlear that I was able to have that connection with nature in a very dark place in my life. I was able to muster up some strengths that night and went into the hardest week of my life.

Marching From Moments To Moments

To this day, I have been able to depend on sound in this kind of moments. This even goes for music and social interactions. With the Cochlear, I’ve been granted the ability to fundamentally grasp all of the significant elements that life has to offer. Whether it’s crickets, a sad song, Bruce Springsteen, or a pure flood of laughers in a room full of loved ones. Sounds has a funny way of helping us all process this whole “life” thing we have. It’s times like this that makes me grateful for the decision to receive the Cochlear implant. A close friend of mine has a favorite saying, “Always march to your own beat.” Life is all about striving through whatever chaos is thrown at you. Just like when I sat down beside that American flag, things as small as crickets can push us to keep marching. Despite being hearing impaired, it is through the CI that I’ve been able to trace my own beat and follow it through the ups and downs of life.

Music To My Cochlear Pt. 2

Truthfully, I never caught on with the rap music scene when I was growing up. Throughout the 2000s, when everyone was going crazy over Nelly and Ludacris, I never fully understood the hype. Not that I had any issues with hip hop songs coming on the radio and other people’s Walkmen. I just never became a huge fan of it. I was more into easy-listening music like Blink-182 and The Killers. Though there were a few rap songs that were catchy, I was never able to fully appreciate the genre, until recently.

A couple months ago, ‘Till I Collapse by Eminem came on my Spotify radio at the gym, and the music was hitting me in ways I’ve never heard before. Although I’ve heard this song many times before, I was actually enjoying it on a different level. I had a moment where I suddenly realized that I didn’t have to understand every single word to fully appreciate it. So, I slowly put more and more Slim Shady into my daily music listening. This has been an excellent development with my CI. Like I said before, parts of my brain that have never been used before have been active since the Cochlear got turned on. I became increasingly intrigued with the way rappers tell their stories through unthinkable rhymes and timely catch phrases. It’s an entirely unique way of storytelling, whether or not you can relate to the lyrics. It’s like reading a whole new section of books that you thought never read, but you unexpectedly get hooked on. After getting familiar with Eminem, I started listening Childish Gambino and Chance. I can only imagine the list will go on from here on out. It’s unreal how much music that I’ve been missing out on all this time!

It’s been almost a year since becoming active, and I still see new changes come into my life with the CI. It’s really great seeing how much I’ve been missing out on and being able to savor it now. At some point next week, I’ll be sure to post up a one-year reflection of my first year with Cochlear. In the meantime, I’ll leave up one of Eminem’s songs on here for you all to listen.

The Deaf Star

One experience that has changed for me since getting the Cochlear implant is going to the movies. Not just because I can now hear how annoying the bag of candy sounds when I crumple it up, but that I can pick up on a lot more dialogues and sound effects. The other night, I went to see the new Star Wars movie “Rogue One” with my buddy, Tyler. It was my second movie since being activated with the first being “Suicide Squad” back in August. Although, Suicide Squad probably wasn’t the best movie to test out the Cochlear (If you haven’t seen it, don’t). Plus, my Cochlear wasn’t as adjusted back in August as it is now.

As for Rogue One, the movie contains an amazing score by John Williams and all the cool laser blaster and spaceship sound effects that we all love. With just hearing aids, I did not hear as much of the dialogue, only picking up about 40-50 percent. Last night, I picked up on 80 percent of the conversations! It was definitely enough to not ask Tyler a million questions afterward about who said what. The only thing difficult was trying to pick up on the talking when the character speaking isn’t on the screen (Ex: Trying to listen to someone talk over the radio). Plus some of the aliens’ accents are hard to pick up on, but that I can deal with. Also, if you haven’t seen it, you definitely should drop whatever you’re doing and go. Rogue One gives all of us Star Wars nerds the satisfaction of being enlightened on an unknown gap of the storyline from the galaxy far, far away.

As for those thinking that I should try out a closed captioning device, I have had my fair share of experimenting with them in theaters while growing up. I just haven’t really had a successful occurrence with one while seeing a movie. So while it works for some, the hassle isn’t worth it for me. Although I do watch everything else at home with the good ol’ CC on. My roommates get a kick out of how the subtitle writers implement some of the sound effects.

At this point, 8 months into the CI, I may need to get another adjustment with the audiologist soon. In the movie theater, I tried to adjust my device to turn it up even more then I realized that I’m at my maximum settings. I don’t want to jump to conclusions just yet, but I may be ready for an upgrade sometime in January. So stay tuned, and may the Force be with you!

 

Raindrops

The other day, I was sitting in the living room watching Netflix with one of my roommates and turned off the TV. Both of us being lazy, we sat on the couch browsing through our phones before getting up. I started hearing some clicking noises and didn’t think much of it at first. Being used to the city noise, I thought it was some construction going on down the street. Then as time went on, the clicking noises would not stop. I got irritated with it and decided to look outside. I found that there was no construction going on- it was pouring rain. I stood there wondering how I could hear raindrops so well from inside the house. Oh yeah, that’s right- I have a Cochlear Implant.

The thing is, I can now hear raindrops INSIDE my head. It’s hard to describe. With the CI, my ears have been able to stimulate my brain more than ever. I am hearing with my head rather than my ears, just like any other able-eared person. When I had hearing aids in both ears, my brain worked extra hard to process whatever sound was amplified into my ears. The CI, believe it or not, works more naturally with my inner ear so that I am hearing the same way as everyone else. Again, as stated in an earlier blog post, the implant processes, rather than amplifies, the sound.

Even after 9 months of being activated, I am still picking up on new improvements with the right ear. It’s defintely exciting!

Music To My Cochlear

I’m going to start out with the cliché saying that music is an influential part of my life. It goes for anyone because music help us process all of the feelings and meaning in life. So yes, music is awesome.  When I got the Cochlear implant turned on, I didn’t expect it to become a more meaningful element in my life because it was already significant enough. The changes came to me slowly in the past few months and took me a while to recognize them. I found myself cooking more often since I would always play music on speakers. I found my taste of music expanding more then ever. My roommate is a big Elvis and doo-wop fan and I found myself enjoying that type of music even more. Not that I didn’t enjoy it before, but it the rhythm and sounds are more catchy to me then before. Even some songs I didn’t like before I was get a big “A-Ha!” moment realizing why people like that song so much. Music is literally making more sense to me now more then ever!

Before the surgery, sounds were heard through the ears of hearing aids. Now I get this unique combination of hearing aid and Cochlear elements to enjoy different sounds with. Although through my Cochlear, music sounds a little distance, but the components of the songs would reach my brain subconsciously and I think somehow my brain is appreciating the sounds on a whole new level. For example, the basic beats of songs are more clear to me now then before. As for lyrics, I still have to look up a lot of the words to understand it. Though we never know, my cochlear may hit that point one day when I wouldn’t have to look lyrics as much. Just like what I’ve said with my brain not working as hard to listen, music is coming to my brain more naturally. Not necessarily that the electrodes are processing the most natural sounds but the method of listening to music is more organic. This grants me the ability to appreciate music more deeply then ever in my life.

Another thing that I started to experiment with is my sensitivity setting. Thanks to my speech path friend, Mandy, for reminding me about this feature. With this setting, I can adjust how far my Cochlear can receive information. So if I increase the sensitivity, I would hear more things further away. Decreasing the sensitivity would allow me to hear sounds closer to me more clearly. For example, I would decrease sensitivity to hear a group of friends in a noisy restaurant. So after playing around with this feature, increasing the setting does help the music “feel closer” to me. Though it’s still not there yet but that may something to consider increasing next time I visit Maegan!

Some of you may already have known that I was at the Coldplay concert in Philly over the weekend. Let me just say that it was AMAZING. The sights and sounds were a once in a lifetime experience. If you could, I would highly recommend seeing them live. Even if you don’t like them. I experimented with turning off my hearing aid and leaving the Cochlear on and it’s was a little distance even with the sensitivity setting all the way up. Then again, all of the sounds are being processed to my brain more organically and I could literally feel the music all inside my head. So, I don’t think it’s about the volume being on the same level as my hearing aids. The music did sound like it’s more inside my head with the Cochlear whereas the hearing aid sounds like it was coming from outside my ear. Looking back on it, this concert was definitely a great experience to test out my new way of hearing!

 

View of the stadium as the band started playing Charlie Brown!

Going forward, as I adjust more with the implant, it’ll be fun to monitor how well music works with me amongst hearing other things. I will be sure to keep everyone up to speed with music in future blog posts to come!

Back In Action

Hi all! 

I apologize for being off the grid lately. I’ve hit a point where my improvements are slowly progressing and I’m not noticing the difference as much anymore. It have been a slow process and that’s expected at this point. It’s been a little over three months since activation and I’m feeling great about my implant. There are still bumps on the road every now and then but what is life without challenges??

Before my surgery, I used to wake up in the morning and put on my hearing aids immediately before I get out of bed. When I got the Cochlear activated, I would take my time in the morning to put them on because it sounded so different and uncomfortable. Now, I recently noticed that I would put them on at the same time as my hearing aid. This is a big deal because this means my brain is starting to get used to the sound going through my inner ear! 

Another thing I’ve noticed in the past month or so is that my brain isn’t working as hard when I’m listening to other people. With hearing aids in both of my ears, it would take a lot of effort and energy focusing on what my hearing aids are feeding me. However, with the Cochlear implant, the information is already inside my head (literally). So, my brain is processing the sound more naturally and effortlessly. With that said, it’s exciting to think about how well I hear six months from now!

Sometimes when I turn off my hearing aid to exercise my brain with the Cochlear implant, I noticed that it’s picking up on the natural sounds very well. I can have conversations with people in noisy environment a little better than before. The only thing that I’m still struggling with is digital sounds, which is mostly music and TV. For example, last night, I was on my back deck with a couple friends while there was music playing. I could hear my friends clearly but the music on the speakers were very distance and hard to distinguish. So hopefully my brain will catch up with the digital sounds going forward!

I will be seeing Coldplay this weekend so I’ll be sure to give you guys an update again soon on how well I hear them with the Cochlear!

 

On The Upswing

I was recently out at a crowded bar with a group of friends. There was everything you would expect in a bar that goes against hearing anyone. Tight spaces, loud music, and even louder voices. Of course, I’m used to being in this type of environment. I had both units in my ears, my hearing aid and Cochlear sound processor. I decided to try something that I haven’t done at the bar: I turned off the hearing aid to see what the Cochlear implant could do.  It wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be. I could actually hear my friend/roommate Dan talk to me without having to lean in! I would still hear all the sounds going on, but the processor helped me distinguish Dan’s voice from everything else. This also applied to talking to the rest of my friends there. It was a huge changeover for me to hear other people in this kind of surrounding. This was one of the most significant distinction I picked up since having my Cochlear turned on. The mic is also working very well for me, the hard part is getting people to hold it at a different positions than how people held my old mic but we all will get there.

Another time where I could tell a difference is when my friend noticed that she was talking to me with a softer level. She mentioned that she would always speak up when talking to me but realized that she didn’t have to anymore. My audiologist, Maegan, even noticed that I’m speaking differently with better speech. So, not only am I telling the difference, but my friends and family are! Though my Cochlear is not exactly there yet, so far I’ve experienced enough positive changes to be happy with my decision.

There have been moments where I would still get overwhelmed with certain sounds. For example, living in a city, I would occasionally hear sirens. When I had hearing aids in both ears, the sirens never bothered me. Now, whenever they drive close by, they would actually hurt my ear and I’d get irritated. Then I realize that’s the point, right? Doesn’t everyone’s ears hurt when they hear the sirens? So glad I can finally be in solidarity with all the functional ears out there. Though to tell you the truth, I would just take off my Cochlear if the fire trucks gets too close (😉).

As for music, there are certain songs that wouldn’t process well in my ear, but my brain is still adjusting. I haven’t been able to plug in music to my Cochlear like regular headphones just yet. The sound is still distance and not all of the features in a typical song is going through. Hopefully when I get more turned up next week at the audiologist, the music will be closer to my level of comfort. Maegan recommended that I may have to do some sound therapy on the Cochlear website. Stay tuned.

Magic Magnet

I have gone through an immense amount of change since the first few days of having those overwhelming wind chimes inside my head. The wind chiming definitely went away and the relatively normal sounds came back. A lot of the new sounds I hear takes a minute for me to realize where the sound is coming from. In the first week, I would get tense from hearing cars driving by or by simply listening to certain music in the car. Though it got easier each day! I was very surprised to hear birds from inside the house. It was something I had to get used to since my initial thought was that theres a bird in the house. Another cool discovery I made is that I can hear people talk with at lower level. So while I get overwhelmed with normal level of sound I can pick up conversation through a softer voice!

I had an another adjustment done with Maegan and Sonya, on Friday the 1st, for the 2 week update. We went up one level at a time to see if I don’t get overwhelmed with the sounds in the room. It felt like a game of chicken because theres a moment of silence in my Cochlear ear before I hear the next level. We went through five or six levels before I started to cringe at the sound of my own voice. After the update I went into the testing booth to see how much more I can hear. Maegan had me do the test where if I hear a sound I would press the button. It’s difficult sometimes because there would be time that I would think that I’m hearing something but then decide it’s all in my head. Then it would turn out that it was an actual sound. Afterwards, the test result showed that I can hear up to around 30-35 decibels while regular ears can hear up to 20 db! So now it’s all about learning to understand what those new sounds convey and getting used to what people sounds like.

If you haven’t seen me yet since my Cochlear was activated, here’s one cool thing!

The magnet attached to my processor can hold stuff for me! This has been a lot of fun to play with. And you know what the best part is? It doesn’t hurt to have the magnet on my head. So cool.

Wind Chimes

It has been a whirlwind in my head in the past 72 hours. Let me catch you up back from activation day on Friday. My mom, my brother, Keaghan, and I anxiously arrived at Maegan’s office (my audiologist) at around 10am. There was another audiologist from Cochlear named Sonya who helped with the set-up. With the Processor hooked up to my ear, we went through a hearing test where I would let the audiologists know whenever I hear a beeping sound. Then I went through another hearing test where I hear a set of four beeps and tell the audiologists which beep is louder than the other. After twenty minutes of testings, I turned on my regular hearing aid to listen to some last instructions from Sonya. Then we turned off my hearing aid for the big moment.

In the moment when it was turned on, my entire head went into shock. It felt like there was a mini wind chime in my head that rings at each bit of sound in the room. It was overwhelming and it was hurting my head. I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. Without thinking, I started stressing out. All I could hear was chime after the chime, and I didn’t like it. After a couple minute of the audiologists talking to me, I began to be able to distinguish what they were saying. I had to think for a few seconds to understand what anyone was saying. Everything sounds so different. Even my own breathing sounds entirely different. It would sound like this high pitch whine as I breathe in and out. Sonya explained that this is a normal part of the process. My brain will get used to the chiming and it will go away eventually. I should eventually be able to be broken into this way of hearing a month from now. Sonya explained that the best way to adjust is to talk to as many people as possible. This is because people vocalize unique sound that music and TVs doesn’t project. When my brain takes in those unique sounds, it learns to understand the complex signals the electrodes gives off.

After having some time to absorb the new sounds, the audiologists went over some of the the new equipment I got with my Sound Processor. I have a remote that controls the volume and program of my Cochlear. I got a microphone, which is a must-have if you know me. I also got a phone clip to talk to people on phone and listen to music via Bluetooth. I even got a waterproof case for the Sound Processor so I could go swimming with it!

I’ve been taking it easy and avoiding places with a lot of noise. There were some aggravating moments that irritated me even in the calmest environments. For example, I went to the bank with Keaghan and struggled to process the drive-thru system sound and interface. I’ve taken the Processor off for a couple minutes here and there to take a break. I’m encouraged to wear it as much as possible in order to get used to it more quickly. Thankfully the audiologists said that I can wear my regular hearing aid in the other ear. I’ll turn off the hearing aid on occasion to exercise my brain with the Cochlear and become more dependent on it.

On a positive note, I am hearing some things that I haven’t before. I can now hear iPhone keyboard clicks whenever someone is texting in a quiet room. I can hear sounds coming from another room, like the dryer running, more clearly. I would hear random chiming and beeping sounds and I would have no idea where it came from. It’s all very new to me. I will definitely hear more and more as my brain adapts to it. Like I said before, I didn’t expect the Cochlear to make my life easier overnight.

My Cochlear sound processor!